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RFID Tracks Surgical Tools, Assets at Ixtapaluca Hospital

Three operating rooms and 500 surgical instruments have been RFID-enabled, with plans to expand the deployment to all surgical units, to ensure that no tools are missing before or after an operation.
By Claire Swedberg
May 23, 2016

Development and Operation of Hospital Infrastructure of Ixtapaluca (DOIHI), an organization that manages assets and tools at the Regional Specialty Hospital of Ixtapaluca (HRAEI), in Mexico, is preparing to use passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to track 11,000 surgical instruments, in order to ensure that none are misplaced before, during or after surgery. The deployment will follow a pilot involving the RFID-tagging of 500 tools. The RFID solution was provided by Mexican systems integrator HTK. The technology is also being used to track medical equipment, furnishings and other assets.

Jorge Mario Lopez Arango, DOIHI's general manager, described the deployment at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2016 conference and exhibition, held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.

As part of the pilot, DOIHOI attached Xerafy RFID tags to 500 surgical instruments.
Located approximately one hour southeast of Mexico City, HRAEI opened five years ago and now serves a community of five million people. It contains 246 patient beds, 69 ICU beds, 30 emergency beds and 14 operating rooms. DOIHI, a division of Mexican construction company GIA, provides the hospital's surgical tools, maintaining and sterilizing them before reuse. DOIHI also manages assets and has installed a real-time location system (RTLS) in the facility's maternity ward.

Initially, says Gabriel Haddad, HTK's CEO, DOIHI sought RTLS technology only to ensure infant safety. The organization purchased a solution from HTK consisting of Elpas active UHF RFID transponders attached to wristbands worn by babies and mothers, as well as RTLS badges worn by nurses and doctors. Reader antennas were installed in the ceilings at various points throughout the maternity ward, Haddad says. The software identifies when babies are being moved from the nursery, based on their wristband's location, as well as whether they are on an expected route (toward the mother's room, for instance), and whether they are accompanied by the nurse assigned to that child, in addition to a police officer. If the infant is being moved without the authorized personnel, the system will sound an alert, triggered by HTK's Web-based software. The Elpas system, known as BabyMatch, was deployed six months ago.

DOIHI and the hospital then began considering other RFID applications. This led to the facility's use of passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags to track and manage surgical tools and other assets, utilizing HTK's Asset App Web-based software and Android-based app for tablets.

The hospital has a variety of assets, including medical equipment, computers, printers and office furniture, that DOIHI would like to track automatically. Before the RFID system was adopted, medical equipment and furnishings were tracked via serial numbers on stickers and bar codes. The hospital managed its surgical instruments by having employees visually inspect laser-engraved serial numbers.

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